Campaign to Preserve Rocky Shore Habitats Takes Shape

The view from Blacklock Point.\Photo by Alex Derr.

The state of Oregon is developing a new Rocky Habitat Management Strategy, the first revision of Oregon’s policy for protecting rocky intertidal and nearshore subtidal ecosystems since 1994.  Oregon Shores has been actively engaged in this process for the past three years.  We are now in the crucial final phase—the basic framework of the management strategy has been approved, but now it is up to the public to propose particular levels of protection for special sites. 

Between now and the end of December, individuals, groups, and communities can propose important stretches of rocky shores to be designated for Marine Education (aka Marine Gardens), Marine Conservation, or Marine Research, in addition to all existing site designation types.  Those proposals that pass muster with the state’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council and Land Conservation and Development Commission will become part of the management strategy when it is formally adopted.

Oregon Shores is pursuing rocky shore habitat protections in two ways.  We are taking a leadership role in building community support and drafting proposals for some key sites.  And through CoastWatch, we are offering information and support to anyone interested in developing a proposal for a particular site.

Board president Allison Asbjornsen is heading a local team that is working on protecting the rocky shoreline between Maxwell Point and Cape Meares in Tillamook County.  And board member Ed Joyce is representing Oregon Shores within the North Coast Rocky Habitat Coalition, which is seeking protection for sites in the vicinity of the Cape Falcon Marine Reserve.

Much of Oregon Shores’ work on rocky habitats focuses on the south coast.  Board member Larry Basch and CoastWatch Volunteer Coordinator Jesse Jones have worked hard to assess sites and make contacts with communities, groups and individuals on the south coast. We have identified Blacklock Point, in northern Curry County, Crook Point in southern Curry County, and both South Cove and Sunset Bay flanking Cape Arago, as sites with strong local support where Oregon Shores will take the lead organizing role.  We will work to support PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans), based at Oregon State University, in pursuing special levels of protection for Cape Blanco and Rocky Point, respectively north and south of Port Orford, where important research is being done. We expect to actively support other organizations that are proposing protection for Coquille Point and Port Orford Heads.  Other sites may yet emerge as candidates for either education, conservation or research designation.

If interested in supporting a site designation proposal at one of the above-mentioned sites, or in proposing a designation for another site, contact Jesse Jones at jesse@oregonshores.org.

Three years ago, Oregon Shores successfully urged the state’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) to begin a review of Oregon’s policies protecting rocky intertidal habitat on the coast.  As we argued, these policies hadn’t been reviewed since the 1990s, and the plan that had been adopted then had never been completely implemented.  OPAC agreed, and a working group was formed.  It has been a long process, with many steps (in which Oregon Shores has participated all the way), but a penultimate draft of a new Rocky Habitat Management Strategy is now on the table.  The Rocky Habitat Working Group of OPAC considered comments made by the public (including Oregon Shores) and then approved a final draft.  And finally, on May 6, OPAC adopted the basic plan framework.  On June 1, the final phase, site desigation based on proposals from the public, was launched.  It runs through December (and may be extended due to the difficulties of organizing community support during the period of pandemic restrictions, although there is no guarantee of this).

Once public nominations of sites for special levels of protection have been made, they will be considered by OPAC.  The state's Land Conservation and Development Commission will then review the plan together with those site designations approved by OPAC. When LCDC formally adopts the strategy, this years-long effort to update the state's management of rocky marine resources will finally be complete.  (Complete, but not set in stone.  The strategy contains an open-ended provision that the public can propose new site designations at any time, although there will be a hiatus after the plan is adopted before new proposals will be considered.)

Oregon’s headlands, tidepools, rocky beaches, cliffs, and offshore rocks (collectively about 41% of the state’s 362-mile shoreline) are managed by multiple state and federal agencies using a coordinated framework, known as the Territorial Sea Plan (which comes under Goal 19 of the state’s land use planning program). The Rocky Habitat Management Strategy, which will become Part 3 of this plan, is intended to help sustain and support the use and health of rocky habitat resources.

To review the draft strategy, go here:  http://bit.ly/37IHF25.

To review the Rocky Habitat Mapping Tool, which will be used in the site designation process, go here:  http://oregon.seasketch.org

Visit https://OregonOcean.info for more information and updates, including a schedule of upcoming public presentations.  You will also find information about public comment sessions or webinars in our calendar.

 For questions about the process, contact Michael Moses, (503) 934-0623, michael.moses@state.or.us. For questions about the work our CoastWatch program is doing to support citizens engaged in this process, contact Jesse Jones, CoastWatch volunteer coordinator, at (503) 989-7244, jesse@oregonshores.org.